Health and Safety at work: the UK picture for 2017-18

As 2019 gets under way, we thought we’d take a look at the bigger picture of workplace safety in the UK. Our starting point is the statistics on workplace injuries and ill-health in 2017-18 from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). At Lone Worker Solutions, we focus on people who work alone, or out of sight or hearing of colleagues. The HSE figures don’t distinguish whether injuries and illness affect lone workers or others. But looking at the broader picture of UK workplace safety provides the context for issues affecting lone worker protection.

Workplace injuries and ill-health: the facts

In 2017-18, 144 workers died at work (from 135 in 2016-17), of which a quarter were falls from a height. As for non-fatal injuries, there are two sources of information. The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) is a self-reporting system which logged 71,062 injuries in 2017-18. But the broader measure is the Labour Force Survey, which showed 555,000 injuries during the year. Of non-fatal injuries, nearly 40% were slips, trips and falls (whether on the same level or falls from a height). Handling, lifting and carrying accounted for 21%, while acts of violence caused 7% of these injuries. Together, non-fatal workplace injuries caused the loss of 3.9 million working days across 2017-18.

When it comes to ill-health, figures show 1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness in 2017-18. Of these, just over half a million were new diagnoses within the year. Stress, anxiety or depression accounted for 44% of the total, with musculoskeletal disorders accounting for a further 35%. As a result, 26.8 million working days were lost due to work-related ill-health during 2017-18. Source Health & Safety Executive.

Some sectors are safer than others

It’s worth focusing too on statistics across different economic sectors. Clearly, some parts of the economy employ more than others, so raw figures don’t provide the full picture. To reflect this fact and allow comparisons, the HSE measures rates of injury and ill-health per 100,000 workers. On this measure, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector has the highest rate of both injuries and ill-health.

Other sectors with statistically higher rates of workplace injuries were manufacturing and construction, public administration and defence, retail, and accommodation and food services. As for work-related ill-health, it was the health and social care and education sectors which had higher rates of illness per 100,000 workers.

Protecting lone workers saves the UK money

It’s worth noting that the UK compares favourably with other European countries when it comes to workplace injuries and illness. This is especially true when it comes to fatalities (the rate in 2015 in the UK was 0.51 per 100,000 employees, against the EU-28 average of 1.29). With robust health and safety legislation in place, the number of accidents has been trending downwards in recent years. New sentencing guidelines increased the amount of fines imposed on UK companies for health and safety breaches to £72.6 million in 2017-18. But positively, there were fewer enforcement notices issued to employers during the year.

Nevertheless, across the UK economy as a whole, the HSE estimates the cost of workplace accidents in 2016-17 was £15 billion. This covers both ‘human’ costs (impacts on individuals’ quality of life, or loss of life), and ‘financial’ costs (loss of production and healthcare costs). Interestingly, it’s ill-health that accounts for two-thirds of this cost. Despite injuries accounting for a greater proportion of breaches, ill-health results in more time off work on average, which drives higher costs. And it’s individuals who bear the brunt of these costs; human costs account for around 60% of the total.

Lone worker protection requires a holistic approach

Given this picture, it’s vital to look at lone worker protection in the round. Deploying Safe Hub as a lone worker safety system is a great way of providing help and support in a range of scenarios. Our barrier and broadcast functions in particular can prevent lone workers putting themselves in harm’s way. We can mitigate the risks that lone workers face with our buddy and proactive support features. And we can help lone workers who have suffered accidents get the help that they need, with our emergency and reactive (worker down) functions.

But there are other equally important aspects to providing a healthy and safe working environment for lone workers. Regularly undertake risk assessments, especially when job roles or personnel change. Review safety policies and ensure that everyone adheres to them. Take proactive steps to ensure lone-working employees understand the importance of good personal care, and mitigate risks of loneliness when working alone. Communicate clearly with employees about practical steps you’re taking to protect them. That way, you can minimise the risks of physical and mental ill-health amongst your lone working employees. And you’ll be the best employer you can be.

Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today

Post by George Stavrinidis

George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.

About Lone Worker Solutions

At Lone Worker Solutions, it’s our business to protect employees, managers and shareholders from the risks associated with working alone. This includes the potential hazards faced by staff who work by themselves, remotely, or out-of-sight or earshot of colleagues. When it comes to safety we don't believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; instead, we tailor our solution to each organisation's exact needs